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Newbie Question re: Rack Mount Servers

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October 20, 2010 12:45:37 AM

Hi All,

This is a newbie question. I apoligize.

I'm starting to plan a new Win Home Server Build to take advantage of Vail. I currently am running WHS v1 on an old Pentium 4.

My first question is this -- I'm interesting in possibly doing a rack-mount case this time around. I've looked extensively @ Newegg. This case caught my eye:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Obviously it's way overkill for what I need right now. But that doesn't stop me from looking at other similar things. The biggest benefit I like of this case is the ability to add and remove drives from the front of the case w/o opening it up, quickly and easily.

So for more reasonable cases, I started looking at ones like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This case has 7 externally accessible 5.25" bays. However, my understanding is that these would need brackets to mount 3.5" hard drives ... and thus, probably wouldn't really be that conveinent for being able to hotswap drives. Is that understanding correct? Other than installing SATA backplates (like the Icydock 5 in 3 or similar) is there any way to have quick access for installing/removing drives?

Could anyone recommend any rack mount cases with a smaller number (4-8 would probably be plenty) of front-accessible bays for installing drives?

Thanks!

TN
October 20, 2010 12:55:12 AM

Those are nothing but blades. You need the rest of the chassis.
The question is WHY do you want a rack mount system?

Exactly how many HDDs are you talking about here?

Also,you could use eSATA if you want easy removal.

It only takes 5 minutes to add a new HDD to a standard case.
October 20, 2010 1:15:07 AM

I understand that they are nothing but "blades" which I assume you mean "cases" without motherboards, processors, etc. If so - yes, I understand taht. This is to be part of a home server build.

The question of WHY - because at some point I would like to put this in a rack. :-) Seriously, I don't have a great reason, just seems like something cool to try.

# of hard drives - my current system has 6, I plan to expand that over time vs. consolidating drives as the density of the drives increases..

I could use esata, but I'd like a more tidy all-in-one solution....

I know installing is easy, but this is a server- I want to be able to throw it in a rack, replace or add a drive as needed, etc. :-)


So I guess my question is this - is there an easy way to do this with all these cases (or blades?) that have large numbers of 5.25" slots open, or is a sata backplate my best bet?
Related resources
October 20, 2010 7:37:34 PM

Quote:
I understand that they are nothing but "blades" which I assume you mean "cases" without motherboards, processors, etc. If so - yes, I understand taht. This is to be part of a home server build.

No. What I mean is you also need a server rack:

And yes, "blade" isn't exactly the right term to use here....

Quote:
this is a server- I want to be able to throw it in a rack, replace or add a drive as needed, etc

If this is a server in the real sense of the word, I wouldn't be running Windows Home Server on it..... Seriously.

Anyways, if your budget allows, yes, this would work assuming you grab a rack (~$400-500 for a good 6-9U rack). I guess you can just have that with out a rack, it's your call.

Quote:
# of hard drives - my current system has 6, I plan to expand that over time vs. consolidating drives as the density of the drives increases..

What board do you plan to use?
October 28, 2010 9:15:18 PM

Shadow703793 said:
Quote:
I understand that they are nothing but "blades" which I assume you mean "cases" without motherboards, processors, etc. If so - yes, I understand taht. This is to be part of a home server build.

No. What I mean is you also need a server rack:
http://chauncy-ict.pbworks.com/f/1192531193/server-cabinet.jpg
And yes, "blade" isn't exactly the right term to use here....

Quote:
this is a server- I want to be able to throw it in a rack, replace or add a drive as needed, etc

If this is a server in the real sense of the word, I wouldn't be running Windows Home Server on it..... Seriously.

Anyways, if your budget allows, yes, this would work assuming you grab a rack (~$400-500 for a good 6-9U rack). I guess you can just have that with out a rack, it's your call.

Quote:
# of hard drives - my current system has 6, I plan to expand that over time vs. consolidating drives as the density of the drives increases..

What board do you plan to use?


Sorry it took a while to get back to you. Aprecaite your comments.

The case was more of a thought about getting some type of "rack capable" unit with the thought that one day I may move in that direction. I wouldn't do a rack at this point. I don't have the space.

As for Windows Home Server; yes, I understand your point. However, I have a day job and don't want to be a full time sysadmin when I'm not at work. ;-) WHS does pretty much everything I need/want it to do. My needs are primarily centralized storage, organized backup and functioning as an always-on media center. WHS does the first two very well, and the last one so-so. But I think it's all I need right now and I really don't plan to move beyond that in the foreseeable future.

Configuration was my next question ... don't have specs in mind. My plan is likely to run WHS with a virtualized Win7 system inside (I have reasons for wanting to do this). So I need at least a dual-core to allow that... I guess I'm trying to decide if it is "worth" the expense of going to an i7 based build or if something else would afford me enough power/future-proofing to do a good job at a lower price. My own personality, I tend to try to buy stuff that I can grow into rather than stuff that is ideal for today but may not be as great down the road.

I'm open to suggestions for configurations/boards, etc.
October 28, 2010 9:57:21 PM

^ Hmm... if you are going to run this as a VM you should have at least a Quad core. Something like a Phenom II X4/X6 or an Intel i7.

4-6GB should be enough, again depending on what you are doing.

Since you seem to absolutely want removable/hot swappable drives, you should get your original idea will work.

These are meant to go on a rack, but you CAN run these on top of a desk,etc if you choose to.

As far as the rack goes, you are probably going to have to pay quite a bit for a good 4U rack with hot swappable drives.

If you only have a few HDDs (4) something like this is your best option: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
or: http://www.amazon.com/SUPERMICRO-Hot-Swap-Mobile-System...
(Personally, I'll trust the Supermicro over the iStar/Kingwin bays)

This will fit in to any good ATX case.

edit:
This is the cheapest I found: http://www.amazon.com/SilverStone-CFP52B-5-25-Inch-Conv...
$26.

If you get a full ATX case like a HAF932 you can get 2x of these drive cages and have 8 hot swappable drives.

edit 2:
Also, if you have multiple small HDDs, you are probably better off consolidating all of those on to bigger drives. We now have 3TB HDDs so you could potentially replace 3x 1TB drives with one of these. Yes, this cost money. But there are only a few options available for what you are trying to do. See below for more info.

edit3:

Also you should be aware that you MUST have AHCI in order to hot swap. Most boards ONLY have AHCI support on 1/2 - 3/4 of the available ports. Some boards have it on all. This is something you should take in to consideration when looking in to any hot swapping method, let it be drive cage or an actual rack.
October 31, 2010 4:57:38 PM

Thanks Shadow - some great info in there.

I was thinking about 4-6gb myself. I have a nice desktop i7 system I built about a year ago with 4gb and it screams .... have been very happy with it overall, just wasn't sure as to whether it was worthwhile to invest in another i7 for the WHS system is is fairly low intensity as far as resources. Running a VM is not something I've done before though - I am assuming based on your reply the extra power will help me out there.

Thanks for the info on hot swappable. I guess it's not a 100% thing for me, but if costs were relatively the same (and thanks for the info as far as the boards go) I'd definitely favor that solution. I have a SATA backplate on my current server (based on an old P4 system) that works nicely and allows me front access to the hard drives. Theoretically it supports hot-swap, but the MB does not ... but it is nice when upgrading or removing old drives to be able to do that w/o having to get in the case, you know?

Most of the nice 4U racks, as you say, are pricey. I'll keep looking around; I'm not gonna build this until the new WHS comes out as my current old system works out just fine .... but some of the newer stuff I"d like to do requires a more robust setup, so planning for that right now ....

As far as regular cases, I do like the HAF932 - have had my eye on that before. Have you had good experiences with them?

I agree with you on consolidating to larger drives. My current system is a "Frankenbuild" with 5 drives of varying sizes (basically, left over). I built it because I could ... and I wanted to see how much use I got out of it. Turns out I use it a lot, love it, and want to have a more formal build .... so the impending release of a new WHS built has inspired me to give this system a more serious look ... the 3TB HDDs are the "Advanced technology" though, correct? I was under the impression that windows may not (does not?) support drives that big without formatting into multiple partitions?

Thanks for the help - very good info and I appreciate it.

Shadow703793 said:
^ Hmm... if you are going to run this as a VM you should have at least a Quad core. Something like a Phenom II X4/X6 or an Intel i7.

4-6GB should be enough, again depending on what you are doing.

Since you seem to absolutely want removable/hot swappable drives, you should get your original idea will work.

These are meant to go on a rack, but you CAN run these on top of a desk,etc if you choose to.

As far as the rack goes, you are probably going to have to pay quite a bit for a good 4U rack with hot swappable drives.

If you only have a few HDDs (4) something like this is your best option: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
or: http://www.amazon.com/SUPERMICRO-Hot-Swap-Mobile-System...
(Personally, I'll trust the Supermicro over the iStar/Kingwin bays)

This will fit in to any good ATX case.

edit:
This is the cheapest I found: http://www.amazon.com/SilverStone-CFP52B-5-25-Inch-Conv...
$26.

If you get a full ATX case like a HAF932 you can get 2x of these drive cages and have 8 hot swappable drives.

edit 2:
Also, if you have multiple small HDDs, you are probably better off consolidating all of those on to bigger drives. We now have 3TB HDDs so you could potentially replace 3x 1TB drives with one of these. Yes, this cost money. But there are only a few options available for what you are trying to do. See below for more info.

edit3:

Also you should be aware that you MUST have AHCI in order to hot swap. Most boards ONLY have AHCI support on 1/2 - 3/4 of the available ports. Some boards have it on all. This is something you should take in to consideration when looking in to any hot swapping method, let it be drive cage or an actual rack.

October 31, 2010 10:57:06 PM

Quote:
the 3TB HDDs are the "Advanced technology" though, correct? I was under the impression that windows may not (does not?) support drives that big without formatting into multiple partitions?

Windows 7/Server 08 do not have problems with it. However, since WHS is based on Server 03, I am not sure.

Quote:
As far as regular cases, I do like the HAF932 - have had my eye on that before. Have you had good experiences with them?

I'v use the HAF932 in a few builds and I like it. But seriously, cases are dependent on personal taste.
October 31, 2010 11:00:36 PM

Shadow703793 said:
Quote:
the 3TB HDDs are the "Advanced technology" though, correct? I was under the impression that windows may not (does not?) support drives that big without formatting into multiple partitions?

Windows 7/Server 08 do not have problems with it. However, since WHS is based on Server 03, I am not sure.

Quote:
As far as regular cases, I do like the HAF932 - have had my eye on that before. Have you had good experiences with them?

I'v use the HAF932 in a few builds and I like it. But seriously, cases are dependent on personal taste.


The new version of WHS is based on Server 08, which I guess would imply it would work. I think I read somewhere that it does NOT support the advanced drives ... I'll have to look around for that info ...

I also liked the HAF932 when I saw it in person @ a microcenter a few weeks ago ... agree though, very much personal taste. Your point about size of the case and ability to have 2 SATA backplates is well taken, and, quite honestly, would likely meet my needs for YEARS to come ....
!